Posts Tagged ‘My Life’

“So I have one friend?” she asked me nervously.
“Yes,” I answered confidently, “I am your friend.”

This conversation happened in the jail (like most of the ones that make the blog). We were talking about how scary the idea of getting out of jail was. How hard it would be to start over since her husband was divorcing her and she couldn’t go back home after this. Since her addiction had kept her from building any positive relationships in the past. Since she didn’t have custody of her children. Since she wasn’t sure what her relationship with her parents was anymore.

She asked how to make friends. She could do it in a bar, she said, but followed that thought up with the fact that she couldn’t go to a bar because she knew if she took one drink of alcohol all her hard work of staying sober would come crashing down. She knew she still doesn’t have the power to stop after one drink or to say no if offered a drink. She knows if she wants to stay healthy she cannot be around it at all.

“I’m your friend.” I said, and then continued with my list of friend making ideas, “You can go to the park, the library, the same coffee shop every week,” I told her. She said she loved the library but didn’t know how to start talking to people. “You can come with me to church and I can introduce you to people there.” It was here she stopped me to ask about my first statement. “So I have one friend?” It was so meekly asked that I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to say, of course you do and I know so many more who would love to be your friend. I know the people who don’t care what your past holds and how many more times you mess up. I know the people who will love you with Jesus’ love. But I knew that would be too overwhelming, so instead I gave her a simple yes. “Yes, I am your friend.” And I hope and pray that one day she has so many more.

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There are days that feel like they were made for collapsing  into someone’s arms and weeping on their shoulder. Yesterday was one of them. Another  14+ hour day of work totalling the work week somewhere around 85 hours meant that my emotions were about at their end before the day even started, but I continued to put them to the test.

In the jail, I met with three different women for an hour each. (I met with seven other women in between those three, just not for quite such long periods of time.) The three women spent much of their hour with me in tears. One walked in and said hello, handed me some books she was returning and sat down. I glanced down to mark which books she’d brought and by the time I glanced back up she was weeping.IMG_5983

“They say addiction takes everything…”
“My life is over.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Everything is gone.”
“My life is over.”
“What can I do?”
“I left everything I knew and now it’s all gone.”
“My life is over.”

Now repeat that for an hour. Adding in a few personal details here and there. And pausing long enough for her eyes to stare into mine through the tears and beg for an answer that will fix it, but not long enough to wait for any answer I could give.

Some days I just hate my job.

I don’t hate that I do it. I hate that it’s needed. I hate that so much pain exists. I hate that there’s no one else who can listen to her. I hate that I’m not actually trained. I hate that people tell me I’m so strong when they find out what I do…because I’m not.

Sure, I kept it together while I listened, but I went home and sobbed.

While it is hard, I love that I get to meet these women. I love that I get paid to be kind. And to share the only hope that keeps me walking into the depths of these stories over and over again. Jesus. I could not face the darkness each day if it wasn’t for His love. God has proven over and over in my life that while He doesn’t promise to make all days good, He promises to be with us in spite of the bad. And He is a redeemer…nothing and no one is too broken for God to redeem. In spite of the hard days, I am so glad I get a front row seat into stories of God’s grace regularly.

After the awkward introduction with a new girl where I couldn’t shake her hand because we aren’t allowed to touch:

“How are you doing?” I tried to ask soothingly.
“I was caged alive for 7 months.” she said despondently as she stared into my eyes.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on. (At this point I still wasn’t sure if she meant she’d been in jail for 7 months, been in solitary confinement for 7 months, or she had somehow been held captive before jail.) I’m not sure I ever really figured it out, but she went on. She told me how great her life was and then she paused:

“Then he went off and died on me.” she said as the tears started to flow.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“Who was it that died again?” I asked, trying to pretend I just missed his name when really I was incredibly confused by the conversation… She went on to talk about addiction, loss, and through the tears our conversation continued to be very confusing. I can only imagine how confused her heart must be feeling tonight.

After joining the ladies for our PB&J lunch on the block another new girl asked to speak with me. She said she had court yesterday and it was hard to process. Noticing her eyes filling with tears I quickly promised I’d call her out to talk one on one instead of at the table with all the other girls listening in:

“So what happened at court?” I asked.
“If I get more than a year they are going to adopt out my daughter,” she sobbed.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on again. This has honestly become my go to phrase. Sometimes there’s just no way to fix it. There are no words to say. We still can’t touch, so no hugs to give. Nothing I can do but acknowledge the emotion. And sit in the pain with her.

We talked about adoption. How there was no one in her life she would trust with her sweet daughter because the people closest to her did drugs. How she knew adoption was good, but that this girl was a part of her. She wasn’t for someone else. I can only imagine how scared her heart is feeling tonight.

On to the next and the story goes like this:

“So you heard my big news?” she asked cynically.
“I’m so sorry.” I replied, knowing she was referring to the loss of her mother.
“This is torture.” she said flatly.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

Again, no words were fitting. I had a hard day yesterday when my mom flew to another country but is still only a phone call away. We reminisced on stories of her mom. How she was her best friend. That she would miss the funeral. Though she was struggling throughout the whole conversation she was grateful that her mom was finally out of pain. I can only imagine how much her heart is hurting tonight.

IMG_5657I think it’s these conversations that make me dislike TV so much. I have a hard time sitting back and separating these stories from the stories in the shows even when they are so very different. I hear the phrase “New Girl” and I think of all the new girls I met today and their stories. I hear “Orange is the New Black” and think about what all the different colors of clothing mean in jail. I hear “House of Cards” and think about the odd politics and manipulation that goes on between the girls in there. I just can’t get their sweet faces out of my mind.

But I also see so much good. I get to see the girls who care about each other as well as they can in the middle of these broken situations. I hear about the gratitude lists that are being made each day. The many people who start their mornings reading the Jesus Calling book we were able to give out for Christmas and then choose to face the day with hope. The counselors who squeeze as much work into their time there as possible. The COs who stop many fights before they begin. The excited updates of girls who have gotten out. The constant requests of prayers for loved ones. I know it’s hard to imagine their lives, but if you believe in God, would you lift up a prayer for these girls? I’m sure their hearts could use it tonight. 

I often hear people tell me that they couldn’t do my job. I hear the “God bless you for what you’re doing“s and the “Wow, that takes someone special“s, but the truth is I couldn’t do it either.

There is just no way.

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The truth is, I don’t do it.

It’s a team effort. God is in charge. I get a lot of the credit, but let me share a bit of where it should be going…

I have around 30 faithful monthly supporters. These people take a risk each month to give to the work that is being done here. These people are the ones investing and doing the work here, though some of them are literally half way around the world. Thank you.

I have faithful prayer warriors. They pray for me. They prayer for my friends here. They pray for the ones I struggle with. They pray for the unknowns. They praise God with me for the victories. Thank you.

I have the people represented in the picture above and many more like them. After being gone a week I came home to 3 letters. One had stamps to be used for my ministry. One had a check. And one had a bracelet. There were also notes of encouragement. Thank you.

Here is one thing I know…God is at work here.

I might be the one to go into the jail. To sit in meetings. To give hugs to my homeless friends. To be matched with a “little”. To make the invites for get togethers at the church. To follow up with people we’ve done service projects for. But I don’t do any of that on my own. God is doing His thing and He is doing it through people all around the world and I simply get to be one of many to witness the results right here in Centre County.

This, my friends, is exciting.

Thanks to all of you who are on my team. If anyone else wants to join my team tell me! There are so many ways you can get involved! I still need supporters. I always need prayer. I love letters. And if you’re local, I’ll put you to work!

Cram Time!

It’s that time of year again…school is almost out (at least for college kids) but I’m not in college anymore, so why do I feel like exams are just around the corner?

That’s right. We have CityServe just around the corner! And that is basically equivalent to exams in my job. =) I wrote an update recently about how I have called people again and again to offer to help them. Well, those phone calls worked! We now have 145 requested projects! (I did not find them all…That awesome team pictured above [Kendra, John, me and Curt] were recruiting like crazy and many others were involved too!) But just like finding the projects took a team, completing them usually does too. In fact some of our projects take up to 30 people to accomplish, so we now need to find 960 volunteers! That is a lot! (Yay for more phone calls!) But there is hope…CityServe is still 10 days away AND we have almost half of the volunteers we need. So we just have to find the other half!

Finding the other half also relates to my support raising. I am just over half way of this months goal to find people willing to commit to monthly support totaling $300 more than was already committed. So far a few people have stood up to the challenge and I have $170 committed starting this month. So exciting! I’m believing the rest will come in in the next 2 weeks so that I won’t be starting May’s new goal in the negatives!

Pray with me that everything comes together for CityServe. That we are able to find volunteers who are able to complete these projects. That we are able to find all the tools needed to complete these projects. That great conversations would happen. That people would come to know Christ. And that we would be a blessing to our community! Thanks!

So I wouldn’t classify myself as a ‘beggar’, but I was reminded this week not to be a ‘chooser’. See I’ve been studying a little bit about Jesus’ interactions with broken people for a College Bible study I lead and that title could be shortened down to just Jesus’ interactions with people – because we’re all broken. Those who are really bad, whose sins are obvious, they’re broken. Those who look really good, whose sins are hidden, they’re broken. The fact of the matter is we are all sinners (Rom 3:23). And the world is broken because of sin. You’re broken. I’m broken. The people in jail are broken. And our pastors are broken. It’s just a fact. BUT Jesus offers redemption. He paid the price for our sin and brokenness and He is willing to welcome us home to Him! How amazing! 

So back to being choosey… well, my job is serving people. I clean houses. I set up volunteers to go help people. I recruit people to make food for other people. I meet up with people for coffee. These aren’t hard things, but it’s just the reality – my job is to serve people. And I love it. But sometimes I find it more natural to serve my ‘friends without houses’ or the people I come into contact with while working, than the people I come into contact with when I’m “off the clock”. But lets be real…as believers, we are never off the clock. God told us to love each other and a powerful way to do that is to serve. So this week when I got invited to go watch a basketball game with friends, it seemed like a fun, low key, no effort outing. But let’s be real, my life doesn’t include ‘boring, uneventful events’. So during the game I ended up getting recruited to help induce vomiting in the pet dog because it ate something it shouldn’t have. Well that was a first for me! We got out the turkey baster and the rest is history. Another item I can check off my life to-do list that I didn’t even know was on there! But the moral of the story is, let’s all be people who are willing to do what it takes to help the people around us. Be they someone you’ve never met or a good friend, because that’s what Jesus does for us.